Standing near the 50-yard line, Mike Price projects his voice through a semifunctional megaphone to describe what’s happening at either end of the field at University High, where roughly 100 high school football players from across the region and state have gathered for a unique experience with the esteemed ex-Washington State coach.
Quarterbacks and wide receivers are connecting on deep passes at one end of the field. At the opposite end they work through red-zone drills, performing various routes and patterns.
“Quick outs, outs, curls, posts,” Price explains to an audience of parents watching from the bleachers.
This is his language. Even in retirement, Price is still eager to teach it.
Five years after he left his final college coaching job – a brief interim gig at UTEP – the former Washington State quarterback and Hall of Fame coach was eager to scratch an itch, returning to the game in a new capacity. He and his son Eric have started the Price Elite Passing Academy, holding private throwing sessions and showcase camps such as the event in Spokane Valley for quarterbacks throughout the state.
“He’s done pretty well. We drug him all over the state,” Eric Price said of his father. “He lives out on the lake (Coeur d’Alene), so sometimes it’s hard to get him away from the lake, but he’s done pretty well and he actually enjoys it.”
Wearing a gray Washington State ball cap and a fleece Cougar Legends pullover covered by a Rose Bowl-branded raincoat for extra warmth, the 76-year-old Price observed and shared the occasional tip as 35 quarterbacks – mostly from the Greater Spokane League – delivered passes through cold, windy and occasionally wet conditions from 7-9 p.m. on May 20.
Word of the event spread outside the Spokane area, drawing quarterbacks from North Idaho and at least one visitor from the West Side of the state.
Mike Price, Eric Price and Daniel Akey, a Washington State graduate assistant and the son of former Idaho coach/WSU assistant Robb Akey, coordinated the event at U-Hi.
“It’s great, it’s fun having a bunch of greatness around you,” said Chance Guidaz, a starting QB at Rainier Beach High in Seattle who traveled across the Cascades to attend the showcase. “They’re very kind and helpful.”
Mike Price hasn’t tutored quarterbacks since his UTEP stint in 2017, but the opportunity to mold the next generation, coupled with his son’s vision, convinced the 40-year coaching veteran this was the right time to jump back into the game.
“I miss that more than anything,” Mike Price said. “More than the games, more than the Apple Cup, more than all that kind of stuff. I miss working with kids.”
Eric Price, who’s held various coaching positions in college and the NFL, saw quarterbacks and receivers holding similar showcase events in his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida, prompting him to relay the idea to his father.
The two of them, along with Akey, have held private sessions with players in Spokane, Lewiston/Clarkston, Walla Walla, Tri-Cities, Yakima and Royal City, Washington, among others.
With 35 quarterbacks and only three coaches, individual instruction wasn’t necessarily the purpose of the event at U-Hi. But it served as an evaluation tool for coaches from a handful of area colleges, including the University of Idaho, Whitworth, Western Montana and Linfield .
“I wanted to just kind of put them in positions where they could throw. Go through all the different drills,” Eric Price said. “They did movement throws, we did footwork, then we did deep throws down here and the red-zone throws down there. I tried to have each kid kind of throw every ball you can think of and just get it on film and get it in front of these college coaches.”
Throwing drills were filmed and video cut-ups were sent to showcase participants with a breakdown from Price’s team, which analyzes things like release, technique and footwork.
Sandpoint High quarterback Parker Pettit, a showcase attendee, said the elder Price “helped me with my release a lot and not dipping the ball a lot and just getting it clean out. Just footwork stuff, too.”
Mike Price mentored some of WSU’s all-time greats at the QB position, namely Drew Bledsoe, Ryan Leaf and Jason Gesser. Younger, less refined high school QBs require a different approach from Price, but the process can be just as gratifying.
“Coaching these younger kids, which he’s never really done, high school aged, I think it’s even more enjoyable because the kids really soak it all in,” Eric Price said. “And they listen and you can change them more than you can maybe a Drew Bledsoe.”
The former WSU coach, who also had lengthy stints at Weber State and UTEP, commended the dedication of the young, impressionable QBs who came out to his showcase, probably realizing the variety of other social options high schoolers usually have on a Friday night.
“Especially on a night like this,” he said. “It’s certainly a dedicated bunch of kids and it makes you feel real good about what you’re doing – what we’re doing and what they’re doing.”
Akey’s father Robb worked under Price as WSU’s defensive line coach while Daniel was still a toddler.
The youngest Akey child is preparing to join his father on Central Michigan’s staff next season, so he’s made sure to take mental notes while observing Price during the showcase events and private QB clinics.
“Personally for me, it’s fun to be around him because he’s a high-energy guy and he’s great with the kids,” Akey said. “He loves doing it. He loved doing the set-up stuff, finding the guys, calling coaches, all that stuff. He’s had a lot of fun doing it, and it’s just kind of teaching me things I should be doing when I sort of get up to that level.”